Tuesday, July 24, 2007

News-Press Causes Subpoenas to Fly

The hearing on whether the Santa Barbara News-Press violated the National Labor Relations Act by, among other things, firing employees who participated in a union protest on a freeway overpass in which a banner was unfurled urging readers to cancel their subscriptions, will be getting underway in less than three weeks.

By all accounts both sides are in the midst of preparing for the hearing. Not surprisingly all indications are that News-Press owner Wendy McCaw will be pursuing her usual scorched earth approach when it comes to litigation.

Both the Independent and the Santa Barbara Daily Sound have received subpoenas from the News-Press demanding that they appear at the upcoming NLRB hearing and produce all photographs and notes they have in their possession about the banner unfurling incident.

According to the Independent's Nick Welsh, the Indy has already filed its paperwork opposing the demand for photos and notes. Jeramy Gordon, editor and publisher of the Daily Sound tells me that his paper will also be vigorously fighting the demand, just as they did when the attorney for a juvenile accused in the March downtown stabbing death of another youth sought to subpoena unpublished Daily Sound photos of the crime scene.

The irony is that if the shoe were on the other foot and someone was trying to subpoena the News-Press' unpublished photos for a legal proceeding, the News-Press would be fighting it tooth and nail. At least that's what they did back in 1990, taking the fight all the way to the California Supreme Court and winning. Albeit that was when the paper was owned by the New York Times Company. (New York Times Co. v. Superior Court.)

Normally, I'd go out on a limb and say there is no way the News-Press will succeed in their effort to get those photos and notes, but the twist here is that California's shield law, which gives newspapers immunity from contempt for failing to produce such pictures, may not apply in a proceeding before a federal agency like the NLRB. Those who know more about these matters than I do say that the NLRB is not likely to feel bound to follow California law in this regard. But hey, I'm not a labor law expert and unlike News-Press attorney Barry Cappello, I'm not about to start playing one now.

As of now, the hearing is set for the following dates: August 14 and 15, 20 through 31, and September 4 through 14.

In case you forgot, we are still awaiting a decision on the outcome of the News-Press' appeal of the ruling of the administrative law judge upholding the outcome of the employees 33 to 6 vote in favor of unionizing.

According to an article that appeared on the Indy website on Monday, Congresswoman Lois Capps and another member of Congress have written a letter to the chairman of the NLRB urging the agency to move in a timely manner to resolve the News-Press case along with other pending certification cases.

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Contrary to what was indicated in a comment to a July 19th post on Blogabarbara, former News-Press reporter Melissa Evans has not taken a job out of the area. She tells me that she's taking a breather from journalism and working on several freelance projects including editing a book.

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